Yoga: Bhakti Yoga (Union Through Devotion and Love), by Parvati Devi

When I think of love and yoga, one word comes to mind: bhakti. There are four primary yogic paths: karma, bhakti, raja and jnana yoga. All yogic paths lead to the same goal, that is, union with the Divine. However the various paths suit those of different temperaments and those with various life approaches. This diversity offers spiritual aspirants the opportunity to find a natural, fitting spiritual practice.

It feels to me, as I attempt to put words to paper, that writing about bhakti yoga would best be done in poetry. It is to be experienced, not studied. It is the yoga of selfless love, compassion, humility, and purity. At the core of a bhakti yogi’s heart and soul is the burning desire and absolute intention to merge with God. It is a complete yogic path that appeals to those of a more emotional nature. The bhakti yogi is motivated to evolve through the power of love. He/she sees God as the embodiment of divine love. Through prayer, worship and ritual, the bhakti yogi surrenders fully to the Divine, allowing his/her raw, emotional nature to be transformed by the Divine into unconditional love. This happens through the yogi’s pure, intense and single minded focus on God.

The Sanskrit noun “bhakti” is derived from the verb “bhaj”, which means “to share in”, “to belong to”, and “to worship”. A literal translation would be “participation”. Chanting or singing the praises of God form a substantial part of bhakti yoga. The Sanskrit word “bhajans”, songs that praise and long for the Divine, also comes from the same word root. We may have our own way to sing and praise the Divine. I feel that I do that through my songs, musical compositions and shows.

I understand that the closest English translation of the word “bhakti” is “devotion”, a words that doesn’t quite convey the intense longing for the Divine. In advaita vedanta, “bhakti” refers to our merging with our essential nature, that is, the state of divine bliss.

The bhakti yogi is a lover of love for the Divine. There is no selfishness there, but a singular focus on God. Moving beyond fear, anger, jealousy and other painful emotions, into rapturous love, the devotee fully believes that God is the ocean of pure love or prem. In this love, there is no selfish attachment, no bargaining, no expectations, but a singular focus on pure love. The bhakti yogi goes through various stages of development from faith, to attraction, then full adoration. In the process of adoration, one’s personal desires are burned and disintegrated in the fire of pure love. The intense longing and absolute focus consumes all notion of separation between the self and the Divine. The devotee becomes consumed with divine thoughts and returns the one state of pure consciousness, which is pure, unconditional love.

On the bhakti path, one tries to see the whole world as their Beloved. To cultivate this kind of spiritual love, the devotee sings, prays, takes on pilgrimages and performs rituals and worship for the Divine. Every act is an act of devotion to the Divine; lighting a candle on the shrine, cleaning the room, decorating the room. One prepares oneself to meet the Beloved Divine as one would a long-lost lover, with a clean body, fresh clothes, and fragrant gifts. This piety helps to generate the necessary mood and mind set to merge with the Divine, that is, to call for the Divine with such longing that the Divine eventually comes and is all you know.

Outstanding present day examples of Bhaktis are Mother Teresa and Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Ammachi). Swami Sivananda, a guru to many and bhakti yoga adept, says: “Kindle love divine in thy heart, for this is the immediate way to the Kingdom of God. Pray to the Lord. Sing His glory. Recite His Name. Become a channel of His grace. Seek His will. Do His will. Surrender to His will. You will become one with the cosmic will. Surrender unto the Lord. You will reach the destination, the Abode of Immortal Bliss.”

May we all aspire to have a pure heart that fully loves.

Parvati DeviParvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current show, “Yoga in the Nightclub”, brings forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.